Date of Award

Winter 11-25-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

John H. Ciesluk

Second Advisor

Paul Naso

Third Advisor

Erik Owens


The prevailing research, as well as reported complaints of academic, civic, personal, and social harm, indicates that public school teachers do not exhibit the professional knowledge, skills, and attitudes grounded in the religion clauses of the U.S. Constitution. This study investigated how TEPs in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts document their instruction of preservice teachers on religion clause issues as they apply to grade 6-12 content area pedagogy, curriculum, and professional ethos. The institutional documents presented to preservice teachers were collected from four teacher education programs in the Commonwealth. An evaluation tool— synthesized from the leading scholarship and research on the relationship between the religion clauses, public education, and teacher education programs—proposes 24 competencies by which preservice teachers should be evaluated for proficiency in addressing religion clause issues. Using this evaluation tool, this study employs a methodology of qualitative document analysis. The documentation provided by the participating TEPs, as well as the Commonwealth’s Candidate Assessment of Performance’s Professional Standards for Teachers, functioned as the unit of analysis. These documents were analyzed to ascertain the degree to which religion clause issues are addressed within their contents. This study resulted in four major findings related to the prevalence of the proposed competencies’ Categories (Curriculum and Content, Pedagogy and Professional Ethos, Legal and Legislative Knowledge) and Domains (Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes) within the institutional documentation surveyed. Findings also address how the Commonwealth’s Professional Standards for Teachers could be aligned with the proposed religion clause competencies. The implications of this study are relevant for educational professionals, policy makers, and concerned community members. This study asserts that more must be done to move the professional practice of preservice teachers from mere concern and self-reflection about the diversity of student worldviews, into measurable actions. It also presents a “bottom-up” proposal for how constituents most directly impacted by TEPs can advocate for such change to be implemented.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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